There is a common perception in the community that Ipswich residents pay the highest council rates in Queensland, if not Australia.
Ratepayers regularly ask: “Why do we pay more than Brisbane?”
Getting an “apples to apples” rates comparison among local governments can be challenging given the variety of ways across the state that each local government defines and structures its rating arrangements and the fact that property valuations vary considerably across the state.
However, using the average or median valuation property for each local government is generally seen as the most appropriate way to view this.
In other words, what does the owner of the average value house in Ipswich pay in rates compared to the average value house in say Brisbane, Logan, Townsville, etc?
The table below shows rates and charges for the “average house” in Ipswich compared to 12 other local governments. Note, this does not include water and sewerage charges.
This shows Ipswich to essentially be in the middle of the pack.
The Cairns Regional Council recently released its assessment of total rates and charges (including water and sewerage) for the median house across 12 local government areas, including Ipswich.
Median is a different statistical approach than average and the Cairns table shows how difficult an ‘apples to apples’ comparison can be to define.
This table shows Ipswich to be still not the highest rated city in the state, but certainly among the higher group of urban local governments.
High levels of population growth are a key driver for the cost of delivering local government services.
Those local governments with the highest population growth across Queensland are Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Logan and Ipswich.
Those other high-growth councils are a reasonable benchmark for Ipswich as they are dealing with similar pressures on service delivery.
The ‘average property’ table indicates Ipswich rates are comparable to Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Logan. Moreton Bay appears to have materially lower rates.
The ‘median property’ table shows Ipswich rates are comparable to Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Logan. Brisbane and again Moreton Bay appear to be about 10 per cent lower.
Greg Chemello said that, as an Interim Administrator of Ipswich City Council, he felt obliged to provide a recommended path forward for the elected councillors beyond the March 2020 local government elections by laying out a responsible long term financial plan: savings for ratepayers and residents, a council sticking to its budget, and continued growth across the region, which had been unprecedented in recent years.
Mr Chemello recently announced a 10-year vision to progressively bring Ipswich’s comparable rates to be among the lowest for southeast Queensland cities.
The cornerstone of the strategy is a long term financial plan to progressively hold the city’s average property rates increases below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the next five and possibly seven years.
Once average rates are more comparable with the lower end of other southeast Queensland councils, rate increases could then be generally set at or around CPI.
“We are setting out a thorough price path for this organisation for the future,” he said.
That strategy has already started to be delivered.
For 2019-20, Ipswich City Council delivered its biggest ever budget and, at the same time, the lowest rate rise of just 1.39 per cent.
That is compared that to neighbouring councils, including Brisbane (2.5 per cent), Gold Coast (2.94 per cent), Sunshine Coast (3 per cent) and Toowoomba (2.5 per cent).
And regionally, Cairns (1.5 per cent) and Townsville (2 per cent) were above the figure announced by the Ipswich Interim Administrator on 25 June 2019.
The average residential owner occupier general rate for 2019-20 will be $1,339 (up from $1,320 in 2018-19).
Ipswich residents were also delivered a zero increase on wheelie bin collection and enviroplan charges, with the rate kept the same as 2018-19, $361 and $45 respectively.
Mr Chemello revealed a $606 million budget for the city for 2019-20, which meant the average general rate increase for residential properties of 1.39 per cent – less than CPI – amounts to an average increase in total rates and charges of 35 cents per week.
“There will be substantial cost savings in some areas, but I see it more as driving efficiency within this organisation and providing better value for money. Council will continue to deliver first-class services to everyone in the Ipswich community,” he said.